On Saturday, August 6th (28th wedding anniversary) our Senior Administration Leadership Team (SALT) will be heading to beautiful Waterton Lakes National Park for our annual summer conference. This conference brings together senior administrators (CASS & ASBOA) from southern Alberta and various Alberta Education personnel. On a rotating basis, each division is reponsible for the organization of the conference. One of the great aspects of this conference is that it is very family friendly with built in time for family activities. My first experience of this conference was in 2001 when I first became a senior leader. Since then, my wife (and even our grown children) try to make it down for a couple of the family type activities.
As part of our annual planning, I’ve always built in a mini retreat for my team either before or after the conference. This is an exciting time as we really start to get into the nuts and bolts of the upcoming school year. One of our first topics will be a continuation and possibly redirection of our thoughts on 21st century leadership. In a PLC format we will be discussing (1) Where we are? (2) Where do we want to be? and (3) How do we get there? I’ve commented before that if any of us are leading like we did 5-10 years ago, we are likely failing our staff, students and communities. The activity will move from philosophical discussion to practical applications. I’m a firm believer that we need to move forward with both our heart and head.
A second aspect of the retreat will be to further a statement I made to our Learning Leadership Team (LLT). This team is made up of SALT, principals, associate principals and our early learning coordinator. Prior to the end of the school year, I gathered our LLT in a circle (without technology) and stated that I wanted Holy Spirit Catholic Schools to be the best division in the province. It is a bold statement but I believe that every division should be striving for that same excellence. Our division is already strong and I’m extremely proud of our accmplishments but I believe that to stand still is to fall behind. That morning was a powerful example of what happens when, as a leader, you just sit back and listen. It will be a conversation that I will continue with our LLT and eventually with our stakeholders to move it forward. It is my commitment to meet with every school staff before Christmas to have this conversation. I’m hoping that as I enter my third year as Superintendent I have built enough trust so that our dialogue will be open, honest and solution focused. Effective relationships are built on authenticity.
The final piece of the retreat will be to sink our teeth into our Division’s Continuous Improvement Plan. Over the past two years we have attempted to follow the wise words of Michael Fullan and Douglas Reeves regarding the number of priorities. You will note that our plan has only three priorities and is a total of five pages long. We need to, first as SALT and then later with our LLT ensure that we are focusing on the right things. When we truly focus on the right things we will be able to drop things off our plate that don’t contribute to the priorities. Unfortunately, we in education don’t often enough subscribe to the “do not do anymore” list especially when we add something new to our plates.
I’m expecting our retreat to be messy with various opinions shared and views expressed. And to be honest, if it isn’t messy then I really didn’t do our team any justice. Collaboration is hard work and sometimes painstaking. But, if we want what is best for our students, then we can only proceed with intense and respectful dialogue.